#RPGaDay2020 – Day 22: Frame

#RPGaDay is cruising into its last full week and has a mere 9 days left of prompts before it is done for another year. Every year has shared alterations or innovations to the event, larger some years and than others, but every year has held the same core belief that resonates even more strongly in 2020 – the year of isolation. Begun as a way for folks who could not attend big conventions like GenCon to still be able to connect and share the games they love and the ways they like to play them, that vision has come to mean something even more specific and special this year as all the cons and gatherings have been closed or moved online to avoid Covid-19 – ConCrud’s worst nightmare.

No matter what form #RPGaDay takes, it clings to the idea that it is possible to share the best aspects of gaming for 31 days and stay positive throughout, and if we were to describe the event simply, that is how we would do it: a global, multilingual, multicultural celebration of our ever-expanding hobby.

My prompt for today, still different from the typical course set through the prompts, is ‘frame’ and for this introduction, that is precisely what I have done. I have defined the difference between what #RPGaDay is and is not, while leaving the precise nature and expression of those things that it is open to the individual to demonstrate.

If you had used this infographic in the way that I did,
would you have chosen the same route?

Yesterday’s prompt saw the end of our metaphorical Ghostbusters RPG session end on a dramatic note. One of the enemy has defected to the ghostbusters’ camp, more details of just how the villains are villainous has been gleaned by the players, and despite their fear and the risks, they are ready to look Death in the eye sockets and tell him to ‘get in line.’

At the start of a session, just like at its end, I like to start with a recap of events. This is a simple and collaborative framing device that re-establishes what the group has produced in play and goes a long way to helping them not only connect with the details of past play, but the characterization and emotions as well.

I use different forms of this device depending on the game, the amount of time between sessions, the people playing, and the tradition of the group. A fun variation for our Star Trek Adventures campaign was to have the Executive Officer deliver the “Space…the final frontier” speech before going into a mock recording of the log. Each session would end with a character chosen by the group giving their personal log and insight into that session, but every session would begin with the XO bringing us into the mood and ethics of the IP before laying down a frame of the events, recent and ongoing, that mattered to the group. Sometimes, we have a designated recap person, sometimes it rotates, sometimes it is done by character perspective, and still other times it is random.

For this Ghostbusters campaign, the group relied heavily on Diego Spencer’s player for his good notes, his organized and open mind, and his enjoyment of being a part of getting the group on the same footing. For this session, I shook things up a bit and asked Gray Stent’s player to do the honors. This helped me to frame the session as the point where investigation had finally and fully transformed into elimination. Gray is a go-getter and an action-oriented player and his deliver of the recap shows this in ways that simple explanation cannot communicate. He got everyone fired up and reminded everyone on an emotional level just what had been discovered last time.

Once that was done, we leapt into play and I hit them with a surprise right out of the gate.

They set the pool of soul-trapping ectoplasm to drain and then hustle out of the creepy faux-stone grotto that used to be a swimming pool (Area 16). After some trouble with the door that needs Gray Stent’s huge boot, they discover that next to the pool is the server farm for the whole R&D facility.

“Uh oh!” says Diego and Lemmon together as they realize that they are back on the turf of the site’s homicidal AI (Area 5).

No alarms sound, no doors slam and lock, but the computers seem to be taxed with a very heavy processing load.

Calling up a process list on a convenient monitor (Brains roll, success with a Ghost), Diego’s possessing spirit informs him conversationally that he is not going to like what he finds. At that point the room’s lights flicker and the bland synthesized voice of the Computer speaks.

“Please do not fondle me, Dr. Spengler. I have not given you permission to push my buttons. Step back and away from the terminals. Do it now.”

“It’s too late, I have already learned what you are doing,” he responds with a look at me. I am still laughing that we got a ghost on the first roll of the night. but I fill them in on how the processors are working overtime to convert images, security video, and documents to remove the names of the guilty and to replace those names with that of Dr. Dieter Lemmon.

The reaction is loud and a good combination of IC upset and OoC laughter at my “low blow”.

I, however, calmly slide a slip of paper over to Diego and Gray that reminds them that they had learned something useful about the AI: a 24 digit alphanumeric code. I do not tell them how to use the code or even what to expect from the code, I just give them a slip of paper telling them the name of the computer ( A N D I ) and that they have a chance to remember that code with a Brains roll.

“I can’t believe you are framing me! After all that we meant to each other in those brief moments before we were so cruelly separated by carnivorous plants!” Lemmon begins.

“As a computer, those so-called brief moments were an eternity spent cataloguing your vast number of flaws,” I retort in the deadpan computer voice.

Lemmon ignores my sally, but the rest of the group bursts out laughing.

“Worse, I cannot believe that you would frame me for something as ridiculous as this caper! Death by plant? How does that even make sense for me to have dreamed up let alone implement at a top secret R&D facility?”

The computer flashes a series of falsified police records for DUI and possession of controlled substances, particularly weed, as well as a redacted military file suggestive of covert operations in foreign theatres of operation.

“Well… you have thought of everything then,” he winds down. “The weed is a nice touch. Good inference to the whole death by houseplant thing.”

“I do not care if you approve “doctor” Lemmon.”

“Why does this computer hate me so much?” he asks no one.

Wordlessly, Diego points at the side of the computer where the name of the machine glitters in chrome.

Gray and Dunhill say, “Oh…” and fall silent.

Lemmon stares, then nods. “It figures. You cheat on one girl in the computer science department and it turns out that of all the programmers in all the world she had to program the AI that works in this dump.”

“Karma is a bear trap “doctor” Lemmon,” A N D I gloats digitally.

“Is there a plug to pull?” Lemmon asks.

“I could set it to self-destruct,” muses Diego and I not letting him know that that is on the table for a Brains roll.

“I am fine with that,” Lemmon says.

Questions: How is a frame different from a box? What framing methods do you use, and when do you use them?

Link: Today the video was recorded first, but it has not been prepared for upload yet. It will appear below in an hour or two~

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